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Corporate sustainability reporting no longer an option. Demand disclosure.

As shareholders and customers, we have the responsibility to start asking more questions about the sustainability policies of Corporate America.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Feel compelled to point you to a great analysis/investigative piece this morning on the greenbiz.com Web site. The article focuses on the apparent disconnect between certain companies' stated intentions with respect to sustainability and the things they actually do for money.

In this particular instance, the author focuses largely on banking giant JP Morgan Chase, which allegedly has recent financial interests in a number of big-time coal companies including now-household name Massey Energy, as well as Arch Coal, the second largest coal company in the United States. Other banks are certainly mentioned in the analysis, including Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, UBS and Credit Suisse. It should be noted that the greenbiz article is absolutely an investigative piece, with lots of "according to" attributions and sources would didn't want to be named. JP Morgan declined comment, although its position is spelled out in a letter to a Chase client that was examined by the author.

In the interest of disclosure, I use JP Morgan as my financial institution, where I have not just my personal and business accounts, but also my retirement accounts. This article has given me pause, and I'm going to ask about it, although the average bank employee probably will be well-insulated from this issue.

The reason I'm pointing to this article in the first place is that it raise the question of how responsible WE are, as the customer or shareholder of these well-respected companies, to ask about issues like this. If you feel passionately about the need to reduce our dependence on coal and oil, and fund renewable energy innovation, as I do, don't you feel a bit betrayed by these revelations?

In fairness, I just went to the JP Morgan corporate Web site to explore whether or not any of these investments are spelling out in the company's routine reporting OR whether or not I could find information about its investments in renewable energy or other green/sustainability efforts. I found very little on either side, frankly.

Transparency in reporting -- the good and the bad -- is going to become more and more important (at least for some of us) in the sorts of businesses we hope to patronize.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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